A collection of tutorials on drafting a sleeve pattern

One of the elements of clothing from the Low Countries at the turn of the 16th century that I most like is the set-in sleeve. I love the look, but it can be the most tricky part of patterning a gown. Since many people struggle with patterning a sleeve I thought I’d gather together some patterning instructions and tutorials that I have come across.

First is the Medieval Tailor’s Assistant. It has a good set of instructions to draft a sleeve pattern if you are geometrically inclined (pgs 34-38). This has been my go to option for years, although I’ve found that I have a tendency to end up with a large sleeve head.

To combat this I have started to use a tip from Marion McNealey’s article on drafting a basic sleeve from Your Wardrobe Unlock’d. She cuts a piece of string to the length of the sleeve head and uses this to set the curve to the correct length.

Mathilde Girl Genius‘ paper “Farm Boy Fetch me that Pitcher” is a really good set of instructions. Most of my students have preferred this one, although we usually need to re-fit the arm as this pattern creates a larger sleeve than

Isabella d’Angelo has a sleeve patterning tutorial which looks straightforward with plenty of photos to guide you through. I’ve not tested her instructions but certainly I’d give it a try in future.

Finally, Jean Hunisett’s Period Costume for Stage and Screen: Medieval -1500 has patterns for a variety of sleeves. In particular she has a draped sleeve which works perfectly for the draped bell sleeves that we see on Flemish and Netherlandish gowns from this period. If you want to do this style well, then I recommend getting your hands on a copy of this book and having a good look at the pattern on pages 116-117.

Ultimately you should choose the method that suits you best, or a collection of a few of them to give the best results.

Durer’s Netherlandish Cloak Pattern

My University’s library has a copy of the diary that Albrecht Durer wrote during his trip to the Netherlands in 1521.

While it is an interesting read, one of the most interesting things in the book for me are some of the images that he drew in his diary at the time. The diary has since been pulled apart and the book that I borrowed is an attempt to reconstruct it. It claims that the only known extant page from Durer’s diary is the following image showing patterns of Netherlandish dress with annotations:

pattern from Durer's diary


I am guessing that this is either the pattern for a skirt or a cloak, which has been the consensus from other people I have shown this image to.

Unfortunately I cannot read German and can’t actually make out any words in Durer’s scrawl. If there is anyone that can translate this page, or even a few words for me I would be very grateful.

Update: 17 September 2004: Katherine Barich (who translated the Textilier Hausrat) has been kind enough to attempt to translate the writing. Here’s what she wrote me:

“On the top piece, the writing on the two edges are measurements. I think this is a layout of half of the garment – otherwise it doesn’t make sense. The right hand side might say 1 pfuss (?) lang and the top edge 3 pfuss (?) 3 so lang. The words in the circle may say: das hoike ligt man knopf(?) janober(?) the hoik lays over the top of one’s head. The verbage below may read in part: Das ist ______ ein hoik kirchliches (?) frauen mantel This is pattern (? from context) of a hoik, a church worn lady’s cloak. It appears that the cloak set back further on the head, and that the front edge flipped back over. I deduce this from the straightish edge at the bottom of the front part of the cloak.”

“I can’t tell if the circles are meant to be cut out or are just a representation of where the head sits. Perhaps I can make out more on the second semi-circular pattern. “

“All translations are really tentative until I can convince myself that I really see these things, or believe I am :-)”

For the moment this is enough for me, at least I have an idea of what the pattern is. This also suggests that after the current spate of projects and research I’ll need to look into these hoiks that were worn by Netherlandish women.

Dürer, Albrecht, 1471-1528, “Sketchbook of his journey to the Netherlands, 1520-21 : with extracts from his Diary”. Commentary by Phillip Troutman. Elek Publishers, London 1971. ISBN: 0 236 154 281